For the first time since 1999, Michigan and Michigan State are both undefeated after four games.
Scheduling has contributed to each team’s fast start, especially for the Spartans.
Michigan’s FBS (Division I-A) opponents have a combined record of 4-8 while MSU’s are 3-7. Both also played a FCS (Division I-AA) team.
So it’s a difficult to gauge whether these 4-0 records can be trusted.
A total of 25 FBS teams around the country are still undefeated. Not all of them are for real. Some will turn into frauds before long.
It happens every year.
Neither Michigan nor Michigan State has done much in recent seasons when they’ve gotten to this point.
The Wolverines were 4-0 just last year before losing in overtime at Michigan State and plummeting with seven losses in their final eight games to finish 5-7.
The Spartans won their first four in coach Mark Dantonio’s first year, in 2007, before losing five of their next six and then finishing 7-6.
They were also 4-0 in 2005 under John L. Smith, but a heartbreaking overtime loss at Michigan started a skid in which they won only one of their final seven and ended up 5-6.
You can make legitimate arguments both ways as to which direction these teams are going this year.
Michigan has an offense that appears to be unstoppable. The Wolverines rank No. 2 nationally in rushing offense (331.3 yards per game) and total offense (562.8). They’re also averaging 41.3 points per game, 11th-best.
Michigan State has also re-energized its run game with four straight 200-yard rushing performances. The Spartans’ defense ranks No. 10 against the run (just 85.3 yards allowed per game).
Both teams have improved in turnover margin, which is arguably the most important statistic for winning games. MSU is plus-5 and tied for 10th nationally; Michigan is plus-4 and tied for 17th.
The biggest problem on both sides is defending the pass. Michigan State gives up 252.5 yards a game passing (No. 97 in nation) and Michigan allows 264.8 (No. 105).
One of the biggest differences between them is the kicking specialists. Punter Aaron Bates and kicker Dan Conroy appear to be an asset for the Spartans while the Wolverines have been struggling with true freshman punter Will Hagerup and two redshirt freshmen kickers.
If each team wins Saturday, for only the ninth time in the last 50 years, they will both be ranked when they play the following week. The most recent was seven years ago when No. 11 Michigan defeated No. 9 Michigan State.
Before that can happen, though, they have to beat two other undefeated opponents — No. 20 Michigan plays at 3-0 Indiana Saturday while No. 24 Michigan State is home against 4-0, 11th-ranked Wisconsin.
So it’s possible Michigan and Michigan State could both be undefeated when they play for only the second time since 1962.
The only match-up of unbeaten teams during that span was the ’99 game, when the Spartans were 6-0 and the Wolverines 5-0. They played in East Lansing with MSU winning, 34-31, in a year when both finished 10-2 after winning New Year’s Day bowls.
Could these teams be that good again? Probably not because of the defensive issues that still must be addressed.
But there also shouldn’t be any free-falls like last year in Ann Arbor.
Reality seems somewhere in between for both.
No official word on when Dantonio will return to coaching following his mild heart attack last week, but signs point to much sooner rather than later.
He not only paid a surprise visit Friday to meet with his players, Dantonio also attended Lansing Catholic High’s football game late Saturday afternoon to watch his daughter, Kristen, get crowned homecoming queen.
It won’t be surprising to see him in Spartan Stadium this Saturday for the Big Ten opener, if not on the sideline, at least in the coaching booth.
Tate Forcier looked pretty good for a guy who ties his shoelaces.
Forcier came off the bench to complete all 12 of his passes after Denard “Shoelace” Robinson banged his knee in the first half against Bowling Green.
It’s been a tough transition for Forcier after he started every game last year. He’s been the No. 3 quarterback early on. There have been rumors he could transfer.
That remains a logical option after the season, but for now, Forcier looks like he’s decided to make the best of it.
He played so well he should be the top back-up now, ahead of true freshman Devin Gardner, in case Robinson goes down again.
Many questioned Robinson’s excessive workload — nearly 30 carries a game — early in the season.
But with two talented replacements available, coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff can let Denard be Denard instead of being overly paranoid of an injury.
The coaches have suggested they could win with any of the three, and based on what we’ve seen, it wasn’t